Why Some Perfumes Are So Expensive

Why Some Fragrances Cost $1,000 and Others $20?

girl playing with perfume collection
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Ever wonder why some perfumes are so incredibly expensive while others cost a lot less? My favorite scent, Bond No. 9's "Scent of Peace," costs upwards of $120. It's true. I justify the price based on how much each spritz costs me. Right now we're averaging about a dime a spritz and for me, it's worth it. That's nothing, however. Many luxury perfumes cost several hundred dollars with a few hitting several thousand.

So what's up with the pricey perfumery?

Typically, extraordinarily pricey perfumes are expensive because their ingredients are rare, not because the branding is so posh. Many fragrances are made from the oils of a flower petal, tree or root or the musk of a particular animal. Conversely, some perfumes are cheap because their ingredients are common and easy to procure, or are made from synthetic ingredients — meaning chemicals created in the lab versus the oils that come from a delicate flower. 

Here are three common reasons perfumes are expensive.

The Rare Ingredients

Some perfumes contain rare flower petals or the essence of a rare root (think tuberose and jasmine, both quite pricey). Others have synthetic ingredients that are hard (or at least expensive) to make. A scarcity of an ingredient (say one that blooms for only one month a year) can add to its value.

For example, the perfume branded in 1930 as "the world's most expensive perfume," Jean Patou Joy Perfume, was so expensive (and remains pricey today) because it takes 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses to make one bottle, according to the website Fragrantica.

The priciest ingredients found in perfume include jasmine (it takes 8,000 jasmine flowers to yield 1/25 ounce of oil), the Bulgarian Rose, oud, ambergris, and orris. Not all of these are fancy flower petals. Ambergris actually comes from the intestines of sperm whales and musk in its natural form comes from the secretions from the male musk deer.

What's interesting is that the pricey jasmine and rose oils are found in a majority of women's fragrances, while pricey musk is found in most men's colognes. You'll pay more for perfume, which contains 15 percent or more of the essential fragrance than you will for Eau de Parfum, which contains between 8 and 15 percent. Eau de Toilette contains 5 to 8 percent and toilet water a fraction of that.

The Marketing

Some companies spend millions on marketing a perfume that is hard to sell. They spend money on celebrity spokespersons and on ad campaigns. You are the one paying for that marketing in the end. You're also paying that celebrity to promote the fragrance that he or she probably doesn't wear in real life.

Some brands market perfumes like art or a very fine wine, creating only so many bottles that will be sold. This exclusivity creates interest and buzz, and buyers descend willingly to pay the price, perhaps for the bragging rights that come with owning one of a select few bottles of something.

The Packaging

Perfumers know that it takes pretty packaging for a product to stand out. And this can cost a lot of money. For example, some of the world's most expensive perfumes come in Baccarat crystal bottles.

Barracat is a French company that creates and sells the finest crystal today. Other perfume bottles have diamonds in them and solid gold bits and bobs.

Unfortunately, it's hard to figure out if you are paying for the marketing or the rare materials. Ingredients that are easier to come by or most synthetic fragrances cost a lot less.